PHOENIX - State health officials are implementing parts of a controversial abortion law even as one section is being challenged in court.
The Department of Health Services has a new website designed to give those considering an abortion a list of things that can go wrong. The site, mandated by lawmakers and the governor earlier this year, also has an ever-developing list of services available to women who decide to keep their babies, from adoption services to diaper banks.
And it has medically accurate illustrations of what a fetus looks like at two-week intervals.
The mandate is part of the measure that bans abortions at the 20th week of pregnancy. A federal appeals court has blocked the state from enforcing that provision while it considers its legality.
Rep. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, sponsor of the law, said it is designed to ensure that women give "informed consent" to terminate a pregnancy. She said having the information available on the Internet ensures that women can seek out the information they need.
But Yee, a staunch foe of abortions, acknowledged she believes that the site will persuade some women considering an abortion not to go through with it.
State Health Director Will Humble said the motives of Yee and the rest of the Legislature are irrelevant to what his agency has done.
"It's not for me to decide what we're going to do regarding information about abortion procedures," he said. "My job is to carry out the laws that lawmakers in Arizona have passed."
If lawmakers direct him to provide information on complications of abortions, he said, that's what he'll do. So the website lists various things that can go wrong from the procedure, from infection and hemorrhage to sterility and death.
Yee said she is convinced the site will make a difference. Some of that belief comes from nurses who testified about the issue in the last two years.
"Young women who came to their clinics did not have information when they came, oftentimes with their boyfriends," she said. One big issue, Yee said, was the question of whether women were feeling coerced to terminate their pregnancy.
"It is against the law," Yee said. "And we've had that on the books for many years."
But she said there was no single place where a woman could learn that.
As for the medical drawings, existing law provided a woman with the right to view the ultrasound image of the fetus. Yee said some women - and, in some cases, expectant fathers - decided at that point against proceeding.
She said, though, that the medical drawings, which are in full color and much more detailed than any ultrasound, may give some prospective parents additional reasons to reconsider their initial decision to terminate the pregnancy.
Nothing in the law requires a woman to actually read any of the information or view the drawings.
But it does say anyone seeking an abortion must be given the opportunity to review all the information. And it says a woman also can get a printed version of the materials free of charge.
Humble said his agency is not just presenting one side of the story.
The website says pregnancy and birth "is usually a safe, natural process." But it does warn that "complications can occur."
Most common, according to the department, are high blood pressure, complicated delivery, premature labor and ectopic pregnancy, in which the fetus is actually outside the womb.
Humble also sought to avoid the minefield of claims, many of these anecdotal, about the emotional effects of terminating a pregnancy.
"Women may have both positive and negative feelings after having an abortion," the website says, saying some report any feelings going away quickly while others say they are longer lasting.
"These feelings may include guilt, sadness or emptiness," the site says. "Some women feel relief that the procedure is over. "Other women may feel anger at having to make the choice."
Whatever the feelings, the site says counseling or support is important both before and after a procedure.
From the state's Informed-Consent website
• Definition of informed consent:
• Characteristics of an unborn child (with illustrations of bi-weekly fetal development)
• Resources for pregnant women in Pima County